Snacking is sometimes seen as a negative when trying to lose weight, especially if you’re munching on packaged foods, which are often highly processed and high in calories, fat and sugar. However, when done smartly, snacking can help you maintain a consistent level of energy, prevent cravings and add important nutrients to your overall diet. Try these 12 snacking strategies to help you reach your goals!
1: Are you REALLY hungry?
Before you habitually head to the pantry or refrigerator, it’s important to figure out whether you’re really hungry or just, say, craving sugar because you saw a recipe on Instagram for Dutch apple pie. Before you snack, ask yourself whether you’d be willing to eat a piece of fruit or some sliced veggies to curb your hunger. “If the answer is ‘no,’ then you’re probably not actually hungry,” she says. If that’s the case, make a cup of tea or sip a glass of water with sliced lemon or cucumber instead — you’ll satisfy your oral fixation without consuming unnecessary calories.
2: Eat protein and fiber first!
If you’re going to snack, make it quality food. It is important to eat foods high in protein and fiber since they keep you full longer, and provide vital nutrients. Try hard-boiled eggs, nuts, edamame, a fruit and greek yogurt parfait, or apple slices drizzled with almond butter for some healthy snack ideas!
3: Is your snack going to satisfy you?
I believe it is better to go for the real thing if you are going to curb a craving. A “diet” alternative usually leaves you feeling unsatisfied and wanting the real thing even more, or you justify you can have double the amount because of it being “healthy.” Just be aware of portion sizes when indulging, but a healthy lifestyle includes having the things you love!
4: Plan your snacks ahead of time!
If you have a stash of healthy and tasty snacks on hand, you’ll be less likely to reach for a donut or bag of chips when you hit that afternoon slump. Hungry people tend to grab the first foods in sight, and they tend to be high in fat and calories, and often excessive quantities are consumed. Chop veggies and fruit, pour nuts into a plastic bag, or whip up a green smoothie to stick in the freezer. This is also a smart way to pre-portion food so you’re not overeating.
5: Don’t eat while distracted.
Research shows that eating while distracted makes you more likely to ignore your body’s satiety signals, which leads to overeating. Instead of scrolling through Instagram or watching YouTube as you snack, step away from your screen to allow yourself to mindfully eat your food. Limiting these external distractions is key to eating mindfully, rather than mindlessly.
6: Hydrate when you snack!
If you’re having fiber-rich and savory snacks like, say, graham crackers or peanut butter and apples, it’s a good idea to enjoy it with hydrating, non-sugar-filled liquids like sparkling water or tea. The combination of water, protein, and fiber will help you feel full sooner and for longer.
7: Use snacks to fill nutrition gaps.
Try not to look at snacks as a negative thing, but rather as a way to fill any nutritional gaps you may have during the day. Try logging your food on MyFitnessPal to track your intake and snack strategically, or you can hire a nutritionist (like the awesome ones at MJ Fit) to help you plan your food each day! If you haven’t eaten enough protein throughout the day, use your snack times to consume high-protein snacks like Greek yogurt, jerky, or a protein shake. If you feel you haven’t consumed enough fiber during the day, then use snack time to consume some fiber-rich foods like fresh fruit or a side salad.
8: Have a plan for turning down non-healthy snacks
If you’re offered a snack you don’t feel hungry for or it doesn’t feel worth it to you, be prepared to say no. There are always well-meaning friends, family and co-workers who may encourage us to snack when we would prefer not to, and it seems like the kind thing to do is to eat it. I am sure they will still be your friend even if you tell them “no thank you, I am not hungry.” Thinking about ways to politely decline may be helpful in dealing with such situations. This can be particularly helpful for people who are shy and/or would prefer to avoid confrontation.
9: Eat quality meals!
One of the best ways to combat over-snacking and reach or maintain a comfortable weight is to eat a well-balanced breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A meal should satisfy your appetite for 3- 4 hours, so if your meal isn’t lasting that long and you’re snacking as a result, it probably needs to be more filling.